There are 6 finalists in the running to build Australia's tallest skyscraper -- and they're all amazing

Picture: MAD Architects and Elenberg Fraser

Melbourne is certain to get yet another extraordinary architecture project.

Local developer Beulah International bought a 6,061 square metre plot at Southbank late last year in a deal valued at more than $100 million.

It has pegged $2 billion to turn the current BMW dealership into something special.

Later this month, it will reveal the winner of an architectural competition it launched to ensure the development will “create a new lifestyle of international significance”.

The project, Buelah states, “shall be mixed use in nature” and will comprise of a variety of programs “to create a hub of integrated programmatic instensity”.

“The site will be centred around innovation in architecture and design, public amenity and technology and could potentially be Victoria’s largest single phase project.”

It didn’t mention “must be really, really tall”.

But five of the six entrants have decided it will be Australia’s tallest skyscraper, with their designs eclipsing current Southern Hemisphere champion, the 322.5m Q1 tower in Queensland.

The sixth project, an unnamed entry from OMA and Conrad Gargett, hasn’t put a figure on height yet, making a point of noting “Is it really all about the top?”

Height aside though, there’s not one that isn’t in some way extraordinary and it looks like Melbourne is set to kick yet another goal when it comes to iconic CBD design.

Here are the finalists, with their own notes provided. Let’s start with the unnamed entry:

Unnamed project – OMA and Conrad Gargett

By emphasising the base of the building instead of its crown, this concept proposes a ground floor market that draws inspiration and references the historic Melburnian arcades and vaulted markets.

Picture: OMA and Conrad Gargett

The base of the proposed design is a 24/7 mixed-use vertical city in which many cultural, commercial, educational and social elements are bound by retail, food and beverage. In this vertical city, there are highways of movement through the large express escalators, shortcuts by elevators, and laneways to wander on through the normal escalators, stairs, and voids.

“Iconic” and “the public” does not have to be mutually exclusive.

Green Spine by UNStudio X and Cox Architecture

Conceived as a conceptual extension of the Southbank Boulevard, the Green Spine will provide a pedestrian connection at street level through a series of stairs and stepped terraces, leading visitors up along the retail and entertainment precinct to The Garden.

Picture: UNStudio X and Cox Architecture

The spine twists into a series of outdoor spaces and green devices along the façades of the two towers, culminating at the top of the residential tower as the Future Garden. The residential tower will reach 356.20m high, crowned by the Future Botanic Garden, a publicly accessible garden in the sky.

Picture: UNStudio X and Cox Architecture

Green Spine will include residential, office, hotel, entertainment facility, BMW Experience Centre, Childcare Facility, School, Retail and Food Precinct complete with a food hall, cinema, library and interactive spaces.

Urban Tree by MAD Architects and Elenberg Fraser

Urban Tree will feature small, green foothills that lead pedestrians up to the “mountain village”, with amenities along Southbank Boulevard including a children’s playground, public artwork and a water feature.

Picture: MAD Architects and Elenberg Fraser

With 43 dedicated residential floors and 24 floors of hotel, the most unique feature of Urban Tree is The Cloud, situated 317m high in the sky. Offering 360 degree views of Melbourne, The Cloud will house the hotel’s public amenities and will change appearance as the day transitions to night, with LED lighting creating an illuminated spectacle.

Picture: MAD Architects and Elenberg Fraser

Reaching 360m high, Urban Tree will include a 1,200 person capacity auditorium space, an 800 person capacity tiered seating concert hall, a library, cinema, food hall, organic supermarket, commercial office space and a childcare facility with outdoor terraces.

The Lanescraper by Bjarke Ingels Group and Fender Katsalidis Architects

The Lanescraper is two blocks that extend upwards and interlock to provide connectivity and structural rigidity. In the spaces between, a series of laneways from bottom to top are proposed, each one with a unique identity and experience.

Picture: Bjarke Ingels Group and Fender Katsalidis Architects

The Lanescraper is proposing a two-tiered concentric auditorium that will seat in excess of 3,000 patrons and a BMW experience centre that occupies four levels, connected by a central void and car lift around which a spiral stair meets all levels.

Picture: Bjarke Ingels Group and Fender Katsalidis Architects

Reaching 359.6m tall, The Lanescaper will include retail and culture amenities, including a library and both informal food areas and formal restaurants, as well as office, hotel and serviced apartments and residential.

The Beulah Propeller City by Coop Himmelb(l)au and Architectus

Reaching 335m in height, The Beulah Propeller City will feature 18 floors of mixed use retail and public space including cultural functions, childcare, entertainment and exhibition, cinema, recording studios, food hall and beauty and wellness.

Picture: Coop Himmelb(l)au and Architectus

Office space will take up a total of 16 floors, with the hotel accounting for 15 floors. The hotel terrace will provide a winter-garden escape, like a sky-high conservatory, complete with a pool, tropical rainforest character and seating.

Picture: Coop Himmelb(l)au and Architectus

The most prominent part of the structure is the residential, accounting for 46 floors, with residential rooms featuring a minimum of 2.7m high ceilings with floor to ceiling glass. Residences will be separated into mid-rise, high-rise, sky homes, penthouses and the propeller penthouses.

Stack by MVRDV and Woods Bagot

Stack is a new kind of skyscraper with stacked neighbourhoods connected from the bottom to the top and vice versa by lifts, stairs and escalators to create an interconnected vertical city. Each bar within the stack has its own appearance in pattern texture and shade, reflecting the building barcode of functions. This ranges from openable façades at the park levels and transparent façades in the public retail facilities, with a tree-like structure representing the park and a beehive structure marking the residential part.

Picture: MVRDV and Woods Bagot

Reaching 359m high, Stack features a hotel pool in the centre of the building, complete with an underwater city window, surrounded by an amphitheatre of terraces and stairs.

Picture: MVRDV and Woods Bagot

On top of the hotel is The Tropical Garden; a rainforest garden high above the city and within the forest understory, a childcare centre is created. Paths and recreation spaces enable a variety of activities typically impossible in high-rise structure, including being able to walk your dog, or go for a jog. A suspended “forest track” open stair offers a sublime climb through the treetops and surrounding skyscraper rooftops.

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